When the invite to check out the all-new 2013 Avalon came through, the answer was an automatic “yes.” The 2011 Avalon had already left a favorable impression so an improvement on that was definitely an event.
Shortly after arriving at the Cincinnati airport, I was greeted by “Bond-ish” girls who escorted me to an awaiting Avalon in Moulin Rouge Mica. Oblivious to the freezing outdoor temps, I nestled into the backseat, unwrapped an iPad Mini containing the weekend’s mission – and the adventure began.
With the mission laid out and the players identified, I relaxed in my artsy room at the new 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati because the “museum” is no misnomer. Even the elevator is an art installation. The entire hotel is a cool, hip gallery, which fit in perfectly with the Toyota Avalon “Only the Name Remains” campaign.
Later on, our intimate group of hand-picked journalists were whisked off to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for an exclusive Avalon dinner and reveal. Inside, there was a “pimped-out” one courtesy of DUB, the West Coast powerhouse that was largely built on making an already great ride even better.
Upstairs, the Avalon was feted for the class act it is. A live band peeled through some classic R&B joints, cocktails flowed, hors d’oeuvre were non-stop and the company was unbelievable, as Toyota top-brass circulated with the journalists.
Just before dinner was served, we stepped onto the balcony and, the Avalon below went into action, racing from its stationary spot at a speed attributed more to cars more famous than it. Somehow the action made it upstairs to us, with the characters engaged in a fight of sorts. The mission was indeed in full effect and, luckily, the good guys were winning, thanks to the Avalon.
Dinner, needless to say, was scrumptious. Toyota’s top personnel charmed us with engaging conversation over the tasty meal. Afterwards, we did a mini-tour of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and stood in The Slave Pen, a structure built in the early 1800s used during the domestic slave trade to hold the enslaved before auction.
The next day was a bright and early one as we headed to Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. or TMMK in Georgetown, Kentucky. Opened in 1988, it is Toyota’s first wholly owned manufacturing facility in the U.S. and, today, its largest outside of Japan. About 2000 vehicles are built there a day and it is headed by Wil James, one of our hosts.
Because Mr. James was our host, we got a tour. Now I’m no expert on manufacturing but this plant was way impressive. Robots and people worked in harmony to create Toyota magic. It was truly something to see and I am not exaggerating. Of course Mr. James was very modest about all of this when he addressed us.
But as “jefe” as Mr. James is, Idris Elba was the man of the hour. Okay it would have been even better if Mr. Elba was there but the Avalon spot with him getting his Bond on was attention-grabbing. The best part was the off-the-cuff video of him just kicking it around the commercial set. Burrell Chief Creative Officer Lewis Williams spoke about the spots his agency created and that was much appreciated. I’m just thankful we no longer have to keep this cat in the bag.
Now we did get to take the Avalon for a spin. Of course it looked great but it drove even better. Since it was cold in Kentucky, those seat warmers came in handy. Thankfully this was just a sneak peek and, later on, we will be getting a more personal, in-depth look at the Avalon so stay tuned.
The day ended with an “Art of Entertaining” event with special guest Bilal. There we chatted more with Rob McConnell, one of Toyota’s engineers for the Avalon, which is fitting since he is just as hip as it is! Imagine Bilal only performing for you and your friends and you get how the new Avalon does it.
By leaving time the next day, there was no denying that the all new Toyota Avalon had made some fans. Only the Name Remains but the bar keeps getting higher.